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Affordable Housing Rules and Regulations

The town and county invited for further public comment on some of the details of their most recent drafting of rules and regulations for affordable housing in our community. Below are some of our thoughts and opinions on the staff’s recommendations and the general discussion of housing in our community! We are stronger together, not divided.

 

Dear Mayor Muldoon, Town Councilors, and County Commissioners:

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on your joint housing rules and regulations, and thank you and your staff for a tremendous amount of hard work on these important subjects.  

ShelterJH is a membership organization that works to ensure all who work in Jackson can have a home here. When people move out or commute, we lose critical service providers on-site, and we lose volunteers and active members of our community. Therefore, as we consider changes to housing rules, regulations, and zoning, we should always ask what the changes will do for our workers and community – especially our community members in the most vulnerable situations.

We have one high-level comment, and then comments on a few topics that we understand are still being discussed.

Overall, we believe the whole discussion of housing rules & regulations has been framed in a very limited way: Currently, affordable homes are viewed as a gift from our community to a few deserving individuals who have earned the homes through their merit, hard work, and type of work – and therefore our regulations should be very strict to make sure that only the most deserving people get and keep affordable housing. This whole frame misses the point. It’s not about the individuals at all – it’s about what kind of community we want to be. We believe a diverse community is a better community – and that we all benefit when our workers can live here. We aren’t “giving” homes to people – we’re creating opportunities that don’t otherwise exist for a diverse community that benefits all of us. If we don’t create affordable homeownership and rental opportunities, we’ll end up an empty husk of a resort town – and none of us want that. Seen in this light, the purpose of these rules and regulations should be to set up simple and streamlined opportunities to ensure a diverse community of local workers. Overall, we believe the current proposal is overly regulated, overly punitive, and overly expensive to administer.  Please use our tax dollars on building community rather than surveillance of affordable homeowners and tenants.

Occupancy requirements

Your current draft regulations add more restrictions to the size and types of households that can apply for different sizes of units. We ask that you base occupancy on number of persons in the household and not distinguish between adults and dependents. Based on discussions with two Fair Housing experts, we believe that restricting applications based on familial status (i.e. whether children are in the household or not) violates Fair Housing rules. Just as one example: a household of 2 should be able to apply for a 2-bedroom unit, regardless of what kind of family that is (a couple or a single parent with a child). Adding more rules makes this more restrictive and complicated. Please do not discriminate based on family / household make-up.

Lottery / drawing process

We are glad to see the new lottery process has been streamlined to only one “bucket,” so everyone who applies actually has a chance to win. This is a notable improvement over the old system. The goal should be creating a simple and equitable system that can retain local employees. Putting in more applications is irrelevant to our goal of retaining a diverse local workforce and is unnecessary. Increasing entries based on the amount of time you’ve lived here adequately provides priority for longevity in the community. Please do not add “number of past applications” to the drawing process.

Renting rooms in an affordable/employment home

When it comes to renting rooms, our goal should be to fill all available rooms with qualified employees, and to simplify the rules – not to generate revenue for the housing program. There are currently empty bedrooms, often the result of changing family status – why not let homeowners rent them to qualified renters? It is a cost-effective and environmentally sensitive way to get some of our employees in a safe and healthy living situation.  To your staff report questions:

  1. Yes, please allow rentals. Especially in employment-based homes without income restrictions, there is no reason to prohibit roommates. And in both employment-based and affordable homes, allowing roommates who also work here further helps house our workforce – which is our goal.
  2. The annual fee should be a simple and low flat fee of $100. Again, the goal isn’t to fund our housing program – it is to get more people in affordable housing. Yes, that takes staff time – but that’s why we fund the Housing Department with existing funds. Staff should not be involved in collecting rent – keep it simple.
  3. Maximum rents should be very affordable, and linked to maximum rents in public rental units. We suggest that all rented rooms (regardless of the category of the home) have a maximum rent that is affordable to 1 person at 50% AMI. (Option 3 at $460 seems most appropriate.) We do not support splitting rent with the housing department. Again, the goal isn’t to raise money, it’s to house more people. If a homeowner only gets half the rent, there’s much less incentive to rent your room to someone who needs it – and it’s more costly to administer.

Overall, please choose the policy options that are the simplest and do the best job at housing our local workers – especially those in most need (people earning below 50-60% of area median income).

Thank you for your consideration,

Mary Erickson

Chair

ShelterJH

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It’s the Final Countdown for our Housing Rules

The Town & County are updating the rules for both housing mitigation requirements (how much affordable housing developers have to include in their projects) and housing rules & regs (who gets to live in our affordable homes, and what strings are attached). These are part of their “Engage2017” work and there’s a ton of info on their website.
 
Town & county elected representatives met last week and gave preliminary direction on how they want to address all the important topics in these two projects. We are extremely encouraged by their decisions on some of our “top 6 priorities” that we listed below. Please thank them for taking steps in the right direction, especially for agreeing to stop asking renters for immigration documentation.
 
The town & county have one more joint meeting next Monday November 13 to finalize their policy direction for both topics. We hope to see you there! If you can’t make it in person, email our representatives ahead of time – council@townofjackson.com and commissioners@tetonwyo.org.

 

OUR TOP PRIORITIES (in short form)

  • Mitigation: instead of the current complicated proposal that leaves out seasonal employees, please use a simpler setup: “developers should mitigate for 65% of all employees – both year-round AND seasonal – and re-do the Nexus Study so we have up-to-date data.” And, please require 1-for-1 replacement of all workforce units destroyed by redevelopment.
  • Rules & regs: thanks for moving away from asking renters for immigration documents!

 

MORE DETAIL…

Housing rules & regs: overall, simplify the rules, and don’t discriminate either intentionally or unintentionally against most vulnerable community members.

  1. Don’t discriminate against renters based on immigration status. The comprehensive plan calls for housing 65% of all local workers, not just documented workers. Unlike with employment, no law requires asking about documentation for housing – it’s just a policy decision, and one that is currently excluding a large number of our community members who have lived here for decades, work hard, and pay taxes. Please remove immigration status from your rental criteria. (Policy Question 1.) >>> Almost all our representatives agreed with this – please thank them!
  2. Owners should be able to rent rooms to other local workers. For employment-based homes without income restrictions, there is no reason to prohibit roommates. And if roommates do not push an income-limited owner over the income limit, that should be allowed too. Ultimately, allowing roommates who also work here further helps house our workforce. (Policy Question 9.) >>> Our representatives asked staff to bring more info back on Monday. Keep asking for this!
  3. Simplify the lottery process by entirely removing preferences and points. The current system is complex and also gives extra weight to people who have the ability to volunteer – excluding service workers forced to work multiple jobs just to provide for their families. (Policy Question 10.) >>> Our representatives may change the system but still need to hear from more people that our housing should be available for all our workers in an open and fair lottery – not based on an idea of “earning” our way in.

Housing mitigation / requirements: overall: simplify the program and fully mitigate for 65% of new employee generation

  1. Our housing mitigation program should generate enough units to actually *keep up* with new jobs created, and house 65% of our new employees. This will likely mean increasing mitigation rates, as well as applying them for both year-round and seasonal jobs, for all jobs paying below 200% area median income, and on commercial and residential projects. >>> The new proposal may do a better job “keeping up” with job growth, but it’s hard to know because there’s no math showing how it connects to our 65% community goal. We strongly recommend a simpler system that includes both year-round and seasonal employees and requires developers mitigate for 65% of all full-time equivalent employees (FTEs).
  2. Simplify the program by reducing the number of use categories and removing the change-of-use fee – instead, just charge an averaged rate initially. >>> This helps make the previous point work better.
  3. Require 1-for-1 replacement of any existing units lost to redevelopment. In addition to “keeping up” with the new development, we also need to replace affordable/workforce units that are bulldozed before that new development is built – and we should require these be replaced 1-for-1. Otherwise, we’re just digging our hole deeper. >>> Our elected representatives are considering this idea, but need to hear more support from all of us!

 

FULL COMMENTS

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The 6 most important changes to our housing rules

We’ve been closely tracking the housing mitigation and housing rules & regs updates in the town and county’s “Engage2017” planning updates. Town Council and County Commission are getting input that opposes our goals of fair housing for all, and more affordable and workforce housing … so hearing from community members who support housing is critical. The town & county have a joint meeting on Monday October 30 about both mitigation and the housing rules & regulation. We hope to see you there!

 

UPCOMING SCHEDULE

Oct. 30: Joint Town Council and County Commissioners meeting to consider alternatives and develop a draft policy direction. 5 p.m., Town Hall. May be continued to Nov. 1-2 if necessary. Public comment to be accepted.
Nov. 3: Release of draft policy direction. 5 p.m., Town Hall.
Nov. 13: Joint town and county meeting to finalize policy direction. 5 p.m., Town Hall. Public comment to be accepted.

 

OUR TOP PRIORITIES

Housing rules & regs: overall, simplify the rules, and don’t discriminate either intentionally or unintentionally against most vulnerable community members.

  1. Don’t discriminate against renters based on immigration status. The comprehensive plan calls for housing 65% of all local workers, not just documented workers. Unlike with employment, no law requires asking about documentation for housing – it’s just a policy decision, and one that is currently excluding a large number of our community members who have lived here for decades, work hard, and pay taxes. Please remove immigration status from your rental criteria. (Policy Question 1.)
  2. Owners should be able to rent rooms to other local workers. For employment-based homes without income restrictions, there is no reason to prohibit roommates. And if roommates do not push an income-limited owner over the income limit, that should be allowed too. Ultimately, allowing roommates who also work here further helps house our workforce. (Policy Question 9.)
  3. Simplify the lottery process by entirely removing preferences and points. The current system is complex and also gives extra weight to people who have the ability to volunteer – excluding service workers forced to work multiple jobs just to provide for their families. (Policy Question 10.)

Housing mitigation / requirements: overall: simplify the program and fully mitigate for 65% of new employee generation

  1. Our housing mitigation program should generate enough units to actually *keep up* with new jobs created, and house 65% of our new employees. This will likely mean increasing mitigation rates, as well as applying them for both year-round and seasonal jobs, for all jobs paying below 200% area median income, and on commercial and residential projects.
  2. Simplify the program by reducing the number of use categories and removing the change-of-use fee – instead, just charge an averaged rate initially.
  3. Require 1-for-1 replacement of any existing units lost to redevelopment. In addition to “keeping up” with the new development, we also need to replace affordable/workforce units that are bulldozed before that new development is built – and we should require these be replaced 1-for-1. Otherwise, we’re just digging our hole deeper.

 

FULL COMMENTS

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How will “housing mitigation” help us?

Housing mitigation is a key piece in the puzzle of how to make it possible for us to live here. It means that new development has to build (or pay for) workforce housing, instead of making things worse. The town and county have asked for public input on a series of questions as part of their Engage2017 planning work. The ShelterJH policy team dug deep into the questions and wrote the following letter to our elected representatives. We hope it helps explain what mitigation is and how it can help. Make sure to share your ideas with the Town Council and County Commission! Contact us with any questions at info@shelterjh.org, and please become a member and build our power today!

 

Re: Housing Mitigation Policies

Dear Mayor Muldoon, Town Councilors, and County Commissioners:

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on your housing mitigation policies. ShelterJH is a membership organization that works to ensure that all who work in Jackson can have a home here.

As you know, our housing crisis is getting worse. We’re losing affordable homes every year to rent increases, vacation rentals, and gentrification. Every day we lose more of our essential workers to surrounding communities. More teachers, nurses, cooks, dishwashers, and police (and everyone else) are commuting from places where they can afford the rent or, if they are lucky, buy their own homes. When people commute, we lose critical service providers on-site, and we lose volunteers and active members of our community. Therefore, as we consider changes to housing mitigation polices, we should always ask what the changes will do for our workers and community – especially our community members in the most vulnerable situations.

One of the main reasons we have a sizable stock of affordable/workforce housing is that developers have provided homes as part of their developments. Lacking this tool, we would be in a far worse situation. And, it has become increasingly clear that even our current requirements are too low – our housing need keeps increasing as our overheated tourism industry continues to create new low-paying jobs.

We believe the policy questions, as written, are difficult to understand – even for housing industry veterans – so we hope that you will forgive any misunderstandings as we attempt to answer them. We recommend that you establish a housing expert task force – different from a “stakeholder’s group” – to provide clear guidance on these policies after you receive public input.

 

1. What segments of the workforce should housing mitigation be for?

1B: housing mitigation should cover both year-round and peak seasonal employees.

Note: existing residential inclusionary zoning is a completely different policy from mitigation, so the status quo is actually that commercial mitigation only covers peak seasonal employees.  Lumping these two separate and distinct policies together (inclusionary zoning and commercial mitigation) is confusing, and we should clearly distinguish their purposes and use. See questions 3/4/5 below.

 

2. What portion of the workforce generated by development should be housed through mitigation? (the rest will be housed through other tools, or commute)

2A, with a caveat: we should mitigate for 65% of all workers, because that is our housing goal. It is important to mitigate for workers of all income levels that can’t find free market options, which includes people earning up to 200% area median income (AMI). We do not believe it is legal to require mitigation for more than 65% of our workers, as that is the level we need to “keep up” with our goal. The community will need to use other tools to “catch up” to our existing need, such as SPET measures and incentive zoning.

 

3/4/5. How should the housing mitigation requirement be imposed?

3/4/5C: All housing mitigation should be done through employee generation mitigation requirements. Inclusionary zoning is a different tool that exists to prevent exclusionary zoning (whether by policy or de facto) and should be used with any annexations or complete neighborhood expansions. Mitigation requires a nexus, which is what your Employee Generation Study provides. This is probably the most important aspect of your mitigation policies, and we offer the following recommendations:

Require commercial mitigation for all employees generated. Currently, commercial mitigation only applies to the peak seasonal employees generated.  This leaves out all the year-round employees that the new business generates.  All employees have an impact, not just peak summer and winter season employees. New commercial development should be mitigating for all of them.  A mechanism to provide reductions from this standard for small businesses could be incorporated, such as the one used in Aspen that scales the requirement based on number of employees generated.

Increase mitigation on commercial development with commensurate density bonus. The current mitigation rate only requires a small portion of the employees generated to be housed, which transfers the burden to the community to create this housing.  Requiring a higher mitigation rate in conjunction with an increase in FAR allows a developer to create the required housing on-site which can remain an asset for the success of the new business long-term and provides housing options for more of the employees generated.

Reduce mitigation categories & use average rates. Currently, there are many categories for commercial mitigation – office, retail, restaurant/bar, lodging, etc. We recommend combining and averaging some uses that currently trigger change of use fees. Categories may include: residential, lodging / short-term-rental, nonresidential, institutional/public/semi-public.

Eliminate change of use mitigation with existing structures. When a use changes within an existing structure, it may trigger a mitigation fee.  This impacts existing businesses and discourages new restaurants, which have a much higher mitigation rate compared to office or retail use.  It is also complex and resource-intensive to manage.  Instead, average the mitigation rates and assess at time of development to eliminate the change of use fees.

Require mitigation on market-rate residential development. Market-rate ownership product is out of reach for all but a few local employees and more often provides an option for part-time or seasonal residents. These transient occupants generate more service employees than a home occupied by a full-time resident. Mitigation rates should reflect the increased impacts from market rate residential development. A mechanism to provide reductions from this standard for local occupancy could be incorporated, such as a recorded document used in Summit County, Colorado.

Require 1-for-1 replacement of any existing workforce housing units. Our housing mitigation rules should require 1-for-1 replacement of any workforce units destroyed during development. This is different from, and additional to, mitigating the workforce generation of the new development. Some new development both knocks down existing affordable/workforce housing and builds new high-end homes or commercial use that require mitigation. For example, the Marriott hotel knocked down a number of de-facto-affordable mobile homes. For easier explanation, imagine a simpler project: a developer buys a single lot with one mobile home. They knock down that home and build 4 new homes. One of the new units has to be affordable based on mitigation – but that just keeps up with the 3 new market-rate homes. But before this development, that parcel was net positive +1 workforce home. After the development, our community is worse off than before. As a result, we should require that developers replace any workforce units. The way to define which units count as workforce units is to use the same list as in the “exempt workforce housing uses” shown below in question #8.  

  What’s on the site Workforce units Impact on workforce housing
Existing conditions 1 mobile home 1 unit
After existing unit is knocked down Nothing 0 units -1 unit
After new development is built 3 market-rate condos and one affordable unit required by mitigation 1 unit to keep up with the 3 market-rate units Still -1 unit
If we require 1-for-1 replacement 3 market-rate condos and one affordable unit (mitigation) and one workforce unit (replacement) 1 unit to keep up with the 3 market-rate units

and

1 unit to replace the mobile home

Back to net zero

 

6. What type of housing should be provided through housing mitigation requirements?

6C: All mitigation housing should have minimum and maximum standards. All units should have access to kitchens and bathrooms (even if shared such as in a dormitory building). Allow the developer flexibility in the provision of unit types and tenancy (ownership or rental) to enable the required units to better meet the needs of the business long-term.

The methodology to calculate the requirement and the resulting mitigation should be square footage based instead of bedroom/occupant based. To simplify the code for development professionals and the public, the town and county regulations should be the same.

 

7. What methods for providing required housing mitigation will be allowed and preferred?

7C: Prioritize new on-site units for developments in complete neighborhoods. Our biggest challenge in creating new housing options for local workers is the availability of land in complete neighborhoods. Allowing units to be built off-site results in fewer locations to meet our workforce housing goals. Fee-in lieu and the purchase of “credits” should be prioritized for developments outside of complete neighborhoods to enable construction of units in appropriate locations and consistent with comprehensive plan goals.

Establish a “credit” system which allows developers that are not accessing public funds to build additional workforce housing in their project and allows them to sell “credits” for these additional units to other developers to meet their housing requirements. This encourage developers to build more workforce housing in their projects similar to the program used with Powderhorn Employee Housing. Set stringent standards for the use of existing housing stock to ensure a net gain in the supply and quality of workforce housing inventory.

 

8. What types of development should be exempt from housing mitigation requirements and why?

8B: Exemptions to encourage the private sector to produce workforce housing have been successful and should remain.  This includes housing units restricted for the workforce in some way, even though they are not restricted for affordability, such as accessory residential units, any housing bonus incentive, mobile home parks, rental apartments of a certain size, and alternate restrictions used by non-profit housing organizations and businesses.  These exemptions act as incentives to encourage the type of development that creates housing options for local workers.  Unless an appropriate deed restriction is added, these alternative approaches should not be allowed to meet the housing requirements of the new development or another development.

Please eliminate exemptions that do not provide workforce housing. Current exemptions that should be eliminated include live-work, one lot split of a residential lot into two lots, and the first 2,500 square feet of single-family dwellings. A mechanism to provide relief from this standard for local occupancy could be incorporated, such as that used in Summit County, Colorado. Additionally, Institutional Uses should not be exempt from the housing standards as currently is the case.

Please eliminate the “credit” in redevelopment for existing residential unless it can be shown that the new residential use will be similar to the old residential use. Compliance with the “rough proportionality” standard is important. However, the exemption for existing uses prior to the adoption of the requirements should be amended to reflect the true impact of replacing existing residential (that houses local workers) with new residential (that targets part-time residents). This is to stop actions such as what happened with the Marriott knocking down affordable trailers and somehow counting those affordable trailers as “credits” against their housing requirements. The new residential built no longer houses local workers and instead 1-bedroom penthouse condominiums are listed between $1,200,000 and $1,602,000. These units are obviously not targeting local workers, and the employees generated from non-local tenancy condominiums is higher than local resident single-family. Therefore, impacts can be assessed and mitigated while preserving the “rough proportionality” standard.

 

9. What type of relief from the housing mitigation requirements should be allowed?

9A: “Relief” should only be allowed inasmuch as it is legally required. Consultants can always provide an “independent calculation” showing that their project is unique and should provide less than normal mitigation. We should discourage this as much as possible and require some form of long-term assurance that the actual impact is commensurate with the “independent calculation.” Also, the term “relief” makes it sound like housing mitigation is a bad thing, when in fact it is a positive policy that we need to keep Jackson the place we know and love.

 

10. How should the updated mitigation requirements be applied to approved, but not yet built, development?

10B: If a project has not been built after many years, new requirements should apply. Additionally, out-of-date masterplans should be updated with new housing requirements when possible (at any time of re-negotiation).

 

Thank you for your consideration on these extremely complex issues. Again, we respectfully recommend that you form a housing expert task force, and we offer our participation. Please be in touch with any questions.

 

Sincerely,

Christine Walker

Policy Team Chair

ShelterJH

 

 

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ShelterJH urges the Town Council to vote to approve the Housing Supply Plan

Dear Mayor Muldoon and Councilors,

ShelterJH urges the Town Council to vote to approve the Housing Supply Plan 2017-2021 and support its implementation.  Shelter JH thanks the Housing Department and the Housing Supply Board for compiling a plan that contains relevant data, thoughtful ways to address the challenge, and a realistic path forward.

In particular, the Housing Supply Plan does a great job of showing the annual workforce housing need compared to the number of workforce housing units in the pipeline.  What stands out is that there are few units proposed that serve households earning less than 80% of the Area Median Income (AMI).

For this reason, we encourage the Council to prioritize Capital Projects that serve households earning less than 80% of the AMI when developing workforce housing on publicly owned land or utilizing public funds to provide workforce housing options. These families more commonly face severe housing costs, overcrowding, homes with physical deficiencies, and housing instability.  This directly translates to higher social service costs, decreased health outcomes and lower educational achievement for a large segment of our fellow workers.

According to your 2014 Housing Needs Assessment, Households earning less than 50% AMI are particularly hard hit by the housing crisis in our valley – 77% are cost burdened, or paying more than 30% of their gross income toward housing.  When housing payments exceed 30%, households have insufficient residual income to afford other necessities like food, transportation and health care.

The Housing Supply Plan also demonstrates the great work that has been done to get workforce housing units in the pipeline and the amount of work still needed to meet our housing goals.  We encourage the Council to consider additional capacity within the Housing Department to effectively manage all the new units that are coming on line and to implement the proposed Capital Projects, Capital Programs, Housing LDR updates, and the Education & Outreach ongoing and proposed efforts.

Thank you for your continued efforts to provide safe, decent and affordable housing for your hard-working constituents and for considering ShelterJH’s request to approve the Housing Supply Plan 2017-2021 and support its implementation.

 

Sincerely,

Christine Walker

Policy Chair

Shelter JH